Thursday, 30 September 2010
(take a rain check + on something)
Can I take a rain check on that drink? I have to work late tonight.
I can't play tennis this afternoon but can I take a rain check?
Thanks for inviting me to dinner but can I take a rain check?
I'll take a rain check on that drink tonight, if that's all right.
You can also say:
I won't play tennis this afternoon but can I get a rain check?
Take a raincheck means to do something later. For example, if someone invites you out to dinner but you are busy that day then you might tell the other person - “Can I take a raincheck?” In other words, Can we reschedule it for another time?
A scene from Jag:
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
We stayed in a fancy hotel near the Champs-Élysées.
We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at a fancy restaurant.
2. to want to have or do something
Do you fancy a drink this evening?
Fancy going somewhere this weekend?
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Currency 'war' warning from Brazil's finance minister.
Guido Mantega says Brazil has an "arsenal" of tools to weaken its currency .
An "international currency war" is underway, Brazil's finance minister, Guido Mantega, has warned.
His comments follow a series of interventions by governments to weaken their currencies and boost export competitiveness.
Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are among those that have recently tried to cut the value of their currencies.
In a speech in Sao Paulo, Mr Mantega said the competitive devaluations were effectively a new trade war.
"We're in the middle of an international currency war," he told a meeting of industrial leaders. "This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness.
Mr Mantega has been trying to weaken the value of Brazilian real.
The currency is at a 10-month high against the dollar, and has been described by analysts at Goldman Sachs as the world's most overvalued major currency.
Last week's $70bn share offering by state-oil company Petrobras has contributed to a massive inflow of dollars to Brazil, which is attractive to foreign investors because of high interest rates and its rapid economic growth.
Mantega said the country still had an "arsenal" of tools available to weaken the real, although he did not explicitly talk about intervention to weaken the currency.
The future of America's biggest book seller.
Shareholders at Barnes and Noble have rejected attempts by an insurgent investor, Ron Burkle, to take control of the loss-making company.
Mr Burkle wants to take charge, saying the current board of directors has mismanaged the bookstore chain.
Juliana Liu reports from New York.
Monday, 27 September 2010
Woody Allen's fourth London film is an elegant, moving return to form .
The Observer, Sunday 16 May 2010
Unveiled with a world premiere at Cannes last night, Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is the best of the four films set in London.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts
Even Allen's most dedicated fans have had their faith in the 74-year-old New Yorter's powers tested by some of his late-period production, but the new comedy, starring Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Lucy Punch, is his most gripping work for many years.
It marks a return to filming the British capital for the director following Match Point, Scoop and Cassandra's Dream. He followed that trio with the overrated Spanish-set comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona and a brief return to New York for Whatever Works, but Allen seems finally to have discovered a feeling for London dialogue, locations and people – at least a certain fairly wealthy section of them – with this latest work.
Watts plays a woman working in an art gallery with a crush on her weird boss (Antonio Banderas) that threatens her marriage to an underrated author (Brolin). Meanwhile, her mother (Gemma Jones) becomes hooked on the advice of a fortune teller Cristal Degiorgio (Pauline Collins), after being left by her wealthy father (Hopkins) in favour of a hilarious bimbo escort girl played, in a star-making turn, by young English actress, Punch.
Allen creates a dense network of well-drawn, beautifully acted characters whose individual actions have imperceptible yet adverse effects on each other and whose familiar neuroses are nicely teased by fate and fortune. The title refers to the far-fetched saying by fortune tellers and also to, as Brolin's character puts it, "the tall dark stranger we all eventually meet".
Shot by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, London looks predictable yet romantic, a city of cultural spaces, promising little windows, old book shops and wet west London streets.
Anthony Hopkins’ role, in Woody Allen’s words, is his own fear of dying which is the character’s neurosis.
Asked if he had altered his philosophical position on death, Allen replied: "My relationship with death remains the same: I'm strongly against it."
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Wild is the wind
Sep 23rd 2010
Two years ago, windmill-makers were worried about their inability to meet a surge in global demand. Last year the industry installed 37,500 megawatts of electricity-generation capacity, increasing the total installed base by almost a third. Capacity in China doubled. Wind firms’ main worry was a shortage of components.
That typhoon of demand has now passed. Installations this year in America could be little more than half what they were last year, predicts the American Wind Energy Association, an industry club (see chart). In Europe demand for new windmills will fall by 14-15%, say analysts at HSBC, a bank. The only big market that continues to grow, though slowly, is China. Wind firms face their first recession.
The credit crunch does not help. Some 40% of wind parks in America and Europe are built by small operators that finance their projects through debt. Lehman Brothers, the bank whose collapse was the starter’s gun for global panic, was a big financier of wind power. “Lehman Brothers was a sort of a switchboard for the industry,” says Peter Kruse of Vestas, the world’s biggest wind-turbine manufacturer, “and they didn’t pick up the phone any more.” A study funded by the German government found that the availability of ten year debt for wind parks had fallen by as much as 40% while the cost of debt relative to benchmark interest rates more than tripled in 2009. The credit squeeze has eased in America, but less so in Europe. Wind farmers in Spain and Portugal find it hard to borrow because of worries that their governments may default or cut subsidies.
The credit crunch may blow over, but two more persistent problems are also present in this market. The first is that the recession has curbed electricity consumption in Europe, both by shuttering plants, some permanently, and by encouraging firms to use power more efficiently. All this will make it easier for most European countries to meet their renewable-energy targets by 2020. Germany and most southern European countries will exceed their targets if they keep building windmills at the current pace, so analysts at HSBC predict cuts in clean-energy subsidies. New wind installations are likely to remain lower than last year’s for the next five to ten years, predict analysts at HSBC and Bernstein Research. Low natural-gas prices are also undermining the case for wind power.
Amid the gloom, however, is some respite for the biggest manufacturers. During the boom of the past five years there was a proliferation of small manufacturers and a fragmentation of the market. The market share of Vestas, for instance, slipped from 28% in 2005 to 15% last year. In these leaner times, buyers in Europe and America are placing orders mainly with the biggest firms, since they seem less likely to go bust.
The next year or two will doubtless see mergers and takeovers. Some of the weaker manufacturers will die.
September 21, 2010
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Americans' satisfaction with their personal computers has been on the rise for the past decade, but consumers still prefer Apple's Macs to Windows PCs.
An American Customer Satisfaction Index report released Tuesday shows all PCs improved in 2010, with consumer satisfaction rising an average of 4% over the past year. Consumers are the happiest that they've ever been with their computers, the 16-year old survey found, with PCs scoring a rating of 78 out of 100. That's up from 75 a year earlier.
Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and other PC makers achieved higher ratings this year than they did in 2009: They all tied with a satisfaction rating of 77. The year before, all PC makers scored a 74 rating -- except for Dell which had a score of 75.
But Apple's satisfaction rating also rose last year, blowing past its rivals with a score of 86, up from 84 in 2009. This year marks the seventh straight year in which Apple led the PC category.
"The biggest asset Apple has had for a long time is its commitment to innovation," said David VanAmburg, managing director of ACSI, an Ann Arbor-based research group. "Others are improving, but the whole world watches Apple when it comes up with its new products each year."
Some of that excitement is comes from Apple's famed "reality distortion field," in which a combination of brilliant marketing and Steve Jobs' aura of being ahead of the curve creates an inflated degree of excitement about the company and its products.
Apple's recent dominance in PC satisfaction is also fed by the company's effect from its other devices. Apple dominates the portable music player market with its iPod lineup, it kicked the smartphone market into high level with the iPhone, and it reinvented the tablet market with the iPad.
Apple maintains that by creating great customer experiences around its popular devices, it can generate positive associations with its other products, including its Macintosh line.
The strategy is clearly paying off: Sales of Mac computers set an all-time high last quarter.
Still, Apple's PC market share is comparably tiny. In the United States, it commands just 9% of the market, according to IDC. Globally, it's even smaller, with about 5% of computers running Mac OS, according to Net Applications.
Apple's puny market share has a lot to do with its prices. Its entry-level Mac Mini starts at $699, and the most basic MacBook will set you back $999. Though Apple's high prices have made a small, loyal niche of extremely loyal fans, cheaper alternatives from competitors are getting much better, especially now that PCs are shipping with Microsoft's vastly improved Windows 7 operating system.
While Apple's MacBook laptops scored at or near the top of each measurable category in a recent Consumer Reports survey, the influential magazine ranked Toshiba's 13-inch, $599 Satellite T-235 laptop higher than Apple's $999, 13-inch White MacBook. It also said HP's 17-inch $1,150 dv7 laptop was better than Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro, which sells for exactly twice as much: $2,300.
"Windows 7 has become very popular, and PC prices are coming down," VanAmburg said. "The biggest concern now for Apple is that competitors will soon start rivaling Apple's quality but will offer their PCs for much less."
1.noun, the ability to read and write
2.noun, the ability to use language proficiently
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Friday, 24 September 2010
1. gesture of pleasure and camaraderie between two people in which one person holds up their palm up high and the other slaps it with their open palm.
It's a way of saying 'excellent', or 'well done', 'or we did it'.
People often give a hi 5 when they've just done something good or won something.
Brit informal: silly or sentimental
e.g. She loves soppy love stories.
The soppy love scenes in Twilight made me laugh.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Utilising dark and subtle humour, the ‘Never say no to Panda’ concept is revealed in a string of new TVCs, which show people refusing to eat Panda cheese. They then nervously look towards a life-size Panda, who stares blankly back at them accompanied by Buddy Holly’s True Love Ways, before the Panda proceeds to smash things up.
1. Law A debtor that, upon voluntary petition or one invoked by the debtor's creditors, is judged legally insolvent. The debtor's remaining property is then administered for the creditors or is distributed among them.
a. Having been legally declared financially insolvent.
b. Financially ruined; impoverished.
To go into administration:
When a company goes into administration it means their creditors can now get in touch and lay a claim to the money they are owed. The administrators will work out how much money is left in the company from sales of all its assets, and then pay off its creditors.
Chapter 11 is a chapter the United States Bankruptcy Code. It controls the reorganization of a business that is no longer viable in terms of paying creditors with its current financial burden. When a business finds that it is in trouble and no longer able to pay its creditors or maintain its debts, it can file with a bankruptcy court for protection under Chapter 11. A Chapter 11 filing means that the business intends to continue trading while the bankruptcy court supervises the company's debt and contractual obligations. The court has the power to cancel all or some of the company's debts. With this financial relief, the company has the chance to make a fresh start.
Blockbuster files for bankruptcy
Sep 23rd 2010, by The Economist online
IN THE early days of the commercial internet, it was often predicted that pure e-commerce sites would begin to struggle as bricks-and-mortar stores moved online. “Clicks-and-mortar” stores, which could reach consumers both on the internet and on the high street, were thought to be inherently superior. Surely Blockbuster would be able to crush Netflix, an online service that rents DVDs through the post? Surely Barnes & Noble, a bookseller, would easily see off Amazon?
As it turned out, they could not.
Shares in Barnes & Noble have slumped over the past few years as those of Amazon have soared. The British arm of Borders, another media retailer, went into administration last year. And on September 23rd Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. The firm, once owned by Viacom, a giant media conglomerate, aims to reduce its debts by about $900m. It is likely to close some of its 3,000 American stores. (The company’s non-American operations and franchised outlets are not affected by the bankruptcy filing.)
The growth of Netflix, a company with a vastly superior website and an attractive subscription model, was hard on Blockbuster. On one side was Netflix. On the other was the decidedly low-tech Redbox, owned by Coinstar. Redbox rents films for one dollar a night through kiosks in drug and grocery stores—a 1950s technology applied successfully to a new medium.
Netflix is a long-tail company. Its vast selection of DVDs means consumers with rarefied tastes can indulge their taste for Satyajit Ray films and Italian comedies. The firm is promoting the online streaming of older films, which subscribers will increasingly be able to obtain through internet-connected television sets. Redbox, in contrast, focuses on big films and recently-released DVDs.
Although the film studios greatly prefer to sell DVDs than rent them, they would rather rent through Blockbuster than through Netflix or Redbox. Warner Bros estimated in December that it makes $1.45 when a film is rented from a bricks-and-mortar store. It makes $1.25 from a subscription rental, and just one dollar when a film is rented from a kiosk. And Blockbuster sells DVDs as well as renting them.
Blockbuster thus faces a “clicks” competitor that offers an enormous selection of films and a “mortar” competitor that specialises in hits. Life in between is tough.
Sep 23rd 2010 .
ONE IN six adults in the 33 mostly rich countries of the OECD is obese (measured as a body mass index of 30 or more) according to a report published on September 23rd. The fattest countries are Mexico and the United States, where around a third of adults are obese. Britain's adults are the biggest in Europe. By contrast, Asian OECD countries Japan and South Korea are the leanest. Governments will count the eventual cost: health-care spending on an obese person is 25% more than for someone of average weight. And the problem is not confined to the rich world. In rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and India obesity rates, though still low, are growing fast as the dietary habits of the ever-increasing middle classes change.
iPhone tops J.D. Power's customer satisfaction survey for 4th year in a row
September 23, 2010
For the fourth time in a row, the iPhone has come in first in J.D. Power and Associates' semi-annual smartphone customer satisfaction survey with a score of 800 out of 1,000 -- well ahead of its competitors.
If it weren't for the iPhone's battery life -- much improved on the iPhone 4 but still all-too-brief on older models -- the device would have scored five perfect gold circles across the board (see above).
LG, with a score of 731, was the winner in the traditional handset category, also for the fourth consecutive time.
Satisfaction with their handsets may be one reason customers seem to be hanging on to them longer -- an average of 20.5 months, up from 17.3 months in 1999, according to the news release issued Thursday. But the report suggests that price consciousness in the economic downturn may be a bigger factor.
The Spanish group said profits rose to 628m euros ($835m; £533m), helped by an aggressive growth push.
It highlighted its expansion in Asia, in particular its entry into the Indian market, where it opened three Zara stores.
The BBC's Brian Milligan reports.
Construction started a year ago at the £780m wind farm, which can be seen from the coast on a clear day, and is expected to generate enough electricity for 240,000 homes.
Richard Westcott reports.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Wednesday, Sep 22 2010
Britain is the worst place to live in Europe.
Britain is the worst place in Europe to live despite offering the biggest salaries, a study revealed today.
High incomes in the UK are cancelled out by long working hours, poor annual leave, rising food and fuel bills and a lack of sunshine.
Researchers collected official data for ten European countries, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Poland.
It found that Britons enjoy the highest after-tax household income, which, at £35,730-a-year, is more than £10,000 above the European average.
But most of it was spent keeping a 'roof over our heads, food on the table and our homes warm', according to the uSwitch.com European Quality of Life Index.
After taking into account 17 quality of life measures, the study put Britain at the bottom of the list, with Ireland second from last. The best quality of life could be found in France and Spain.
Britons can expect to work three years longer and die two years younger than their French counterparts.
We also have to contend with a higher cost of living and pay more for most basics such as fuel, food, alcohol and train travel.
With a litre costing £1.08, the UK is the second most expensive country for petrol and the most expensive for diesel.
Meanwhile, a basket of food items that costs £134.48 in the UK will be £124 in Europe and only £118.76 in France.
Only Ireland and Sweden pays more for a round of drinks than the UK, and only the Irish pay more for cigarettes.
Life expectancy is also slightly lower than the European average, according to the study, which was carried out in conjunction with Research Insight.
While Britons can expect to live to 78.9, the French can expect to reach 80.9.
And while the average European retirement age is 62 years, UK workers can expect to carry on six months longer.
Although workers in Spain, France, Italy and Poland work longer hours per week, they benefit from more days off.
UK workers get the least annual leave in Europe, with 28 days a year, compared with 41 in Spain.
As a result, UK workers can expect to work an average of five days a year more than their European counterparts and 13 days more than the Spanish.
The UK also spends a smaller percentage of its national wealth on health and education, despite evidence linking education with longer life expectancy.
In addition, Britons enjoy fewer hours of sunshine than the countries studied apart from Ireland and the Netherlands.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: 'There is more to good living than money and this report shows why so many Brits are giving up on the UK and heading to France and Spain.
'We earn substantially more than our European neighbours, but this level of income is needed just to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and our homes warm.
'It's giving us a decent standard of living, but it's not helping us achieve the quality of life that people in other countries enjoy.
'For too long the focus in the UK has been on standard of living rather than quality of life. As a result we have lost all sense of balance between wealth and well-being.
'The recession could prove to be a turning point, forcing us to re-evaluate our way of life, get back to basics and to the things that really count.
Just 56 senators voted in favour of debating the defence authorisation bill, four short of the 60 required.
Gay people can serve in the military, but face expulsion if they reveal their sexuality. US President Barack Obama has promised to scrap the policy.
Jack Izzard reports.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
1. To submit (oneself) passively; accept as inevitable: I resigned myself to a long wait in line.
2. To give up (a position, for example), especially by formal notification.
3. To relinquish (a privilege, right, or claim).
To give up one's job or office; quit, especially by formal notification: resign from a board of directors.
To resign - give up or retire from a position; "The Secretary of the Navy will leave office next month"; "The chairman resigned over the financial scandal"
Compare: leave office, step down, quit
renounce, give up -
. 10 Minute English teaches intermediate-level learners of English using realistic audio dialogues between native speakers of English (British English and American English). The dialogues are structured around grammar points which intermediate learners usually have difficulty with. The grammar used in the dialogues is fully explained in simple and clear terms. The free 'Lite' version has three lessons, while the 'full' version costing $4.99 has ten.
• Grammar Girl Podcast App ($1.99). One of the very best ELL podcasts delivered right to your iPhone along with a weekly bonus audio file that covers an additional grammar or writing topic. Bonus tips are only available through the app. You'll also occasionally receive free book excerpts. Of course, you could subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for free, and transfer it to your iPhone, but $1.99 is a small price to pay to avoid all that hassle and get direct access to over 200 podcasts.
To get a grammar app with a full range of practice activities and exercises, you're going to have to pay a bit more.
• English Grammar in Use Activities ($9.99) Based on the best-selling grammar book by Raymond Murphy. Designed for intermediate level learners of English. Over 2,800 questions, divided into 16 grammar sections. Features a variety of activity types. Audio recordings of all the exercises. Record and play back function.
• English Grammar in Use Tests ($4.99) This app preceded the 'Activities' one and has fewer questions (1,700) and no audio.
Thanks for the tip, Jeffrey!
Sep 20th 2010, 18:09 by The Economist online
In this week's podcast - Petrobras's massive share issue, the problems of foreign firms in China and enforced fun at work.
September 9, 2010
iTunes for music... or is it?
iTunes is called that because it's about music downloads ... or is it?
By Max Foster
You can also download apps from iTunes, and the analysts Aysmco says app downloads may soon overtake music downloads. By the end of the year, music and app downloads are likely to be balanced at 13 billion each, a month. The App Store has reached this point twice as quickly as the music store, so you can only imagine where this business is heading. Steve Jobs has predicted the App Store is going to be a billion-dollar marketplace, but even that may be looking conservative at current rates.
Jobs has now taken the bold move of opening up the Apps Store to other suppliers, though under pressure from developers. Those developers can now use software from Apple rivals to build apps for Apple products (iPhones, iPads, etc) and sell them through iTunes.
With a wider offer, the App Store will be an even bigger marketplace, and probably and even bigger business. Maybe time for an iTunes rebrand? 'iApps' works for you?
Monday, 20 September 2010
Why Companies Should Insist that Employees Take Naps
September 20, 2010
Naps are a powerful source of competitive advantage. The recent evidence is overwhelming: naps are not just physically restorative, but also improve perceptual skills, motor skills, reaction time and alertness.
When Sara Mednick, a former Harvard researcher, gave her subjects a memory challenge, she allowed half of them to take a 60 to 90 minute nap, the nappers dramatically outperformed the non-nappers. In another study, Mednick had subjects practice a visual task at four intervals over the course of a day. Those who took a 30 minute nap after the second session sustained their performance all day long. Those who didn't nap performed increasingly poorly as the day wore on.
The best time for a nap is between 1 and 3 pm, when the body most craves a period of sleep. The ideal length for a workplace nap is 30 minutes or less, which assures that you won't fall into the deeper stages of sleep, and awake with that loopy feeling scientists call "sleep inertia."
"A nap," argues Mathew Walker, a sleep researcher at Berkeley, "not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap."
For all this evidence, I've yet to come across a single company that actively and enthusiastically encourages employees to nap. A growing number, including Google, provide napping rooms. That's a great first step, but it's scarcely the norm to use them.
Napping won't begin to take hold in companies until leaders recognize that it's not the number of hours people work that determines the value they create, but rather the energy they're capable of bringing to whatever hours they work.
If encouraging employees to take a half hour nap means they can be two or three times as productive over the subsequent three hours late in the day — and far more emotionally resilient — the value is crystal clear. It's a win-win and a great investment.
"This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t."
~ Woody Allen, "On Faith and Fortune Tellers" (New York Times)
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Is the glass half empty or half full? is a common expression, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty); or as a general litmus test to simply determine if an individual is an optimist or a pessimist. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation as well as trouble.
This idiom is used to explain how people perceive events and objects. Perception is unique to every individual and is simply one's interpretation of reality. The phrase "Is the glass half empty or half full" can be referred to as a philosophical question.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting in the second quarter of 2010, the median weekly earnings of women were 82.8 percent of men’s -- closer than ever before. In 2000, women were earning 76.1 percent of men’s weekly earnings.
On KTEN, one man says the news is not a surprise.
“Rightfully, women are starting to get some great jobs and are being compensated fairly for the work that they do. It took a few years for it to happen, we know, but thankfully that’s taking place.”
But others are pointing to a much more complex story. A writer for the USA Today says the narrowing of the pay gap is a result of men’s employment troubles.
“Men have been losing jobs at a faster rate than women in the recession because of troubles in manufacturing, construction and other industries... By contrast, job loss has been slow in government and health care, which tend to employ more women.”
The statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics came shortly after a market research firm released another study saying young women in cities like New York City and L.A. are actually earning more than their male peers.
But a writer for Jezebel warns, “Before you get too excited, keep this in mind: these findings seem to apply only to single, childless women under 30. The reason for Y-women's earning power comes down to education; 3 women graduate college for every 2 men.”
And as Yahoo’s The Upshot points out, the gap widens again once women hit 35,
“...perhaps in part because they've taken time off to raise children... For women workers who haven't veered onto the mommy track, the scenario behind their lagging pay is depressingly familiar: They entered the workforce at salaries similar to their male peers' but were then passed over for promotions.”
Finally, a writer for Salon.com says the numbers don’t tell Americans anything about discrimination or the so-called “gender war.” Instead, she suggests we use the data to the advantage of everyone.
“The fact that ladies these days are getting their learn on like never before, and that this gap is most notable in communities with ‘knowledge-based’ job markets that prize higher education, sends a clear message of how we can help young men to catch up."
So what do you think? Is the closing gender pay gap indicative of what a writer for Forbes calls the “mancession,” or can we even call it progress for women if their families are still suffering financial difficulties?
With designs made by devotees, Threadless has helped Dell sell computers and Havaianas sell flip-flops.
Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, a pair of college dropouts from Chicago, had been running Threadless for six years before someone coined a term to describe the company's business model in 2006—crowdsourcing. Part apparel maker and part social network, Threadless has a website where artists can submit designs for T-shirts and have them voted on by a community of followers. The ones that gain the most votes are printed and sold for between $18 and $24 apiece. Artists receive a $2,000 payment and a $500 credit for purchases at the site.
In July computer maker Dell (DELL) unveiled 12 new designs that can be placed into the exteriors of its notebook PCs for an additional cost of $85. The images, which range from a scene in London to a tropical beach, were all made by Threadless devotees. The designs have caught on quickly, according to Dell, which won't give specific sales figures. "We wanted to bring the voice of the consumer in, so teaming with Threadless was an obvious fit," says Rachna Bhasin, general manager of strategic partnerships at Dell.
Earlier this year, Havaianas, the now ubiquitous brand of rubber flip-flops made by Brazil's Alpargatas, partnered with Threadless on a special line of sandals. For its first foray into the accessories arena, Threadless received more than 600 design submissions from contestants around the world. Sandals bearing the six winning motifs went on sale on Havaianas' website in July. Neither company will comment on how revenue is shared, but Jim Anstey, Havaianas' U.S. marketing director, says the Threadless line is now its No. 2 best-selling category online. "We were looking for a way to engage our target audience," says Anstey. "Conventional advertising doesn't work anymore."
More established companies also have experimented with crowdsourcing. In 2002, Mars ran a global contest to choose a new color for its M&M's candy, with more than 10 million chocolate lovers taking part (purple triumphed). And in 2003 more than 360,000 ice-cream aficionados voted to add Primary Berry Graham to Ben & Jerry's lineup of flavors.
"Threadless is an archetypal crowdsourcing company," says Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. "They really redefined customer service and marketing as a much deeper, richer process, as opposed to a simple and straightforward means, it would be fairer to say that "conventional advertising doesn’t allow you to engage with your target audience in a way that partnerships can."
For manufacturers and retailers that choose to use this community-based design flavor of crowdsourcing, a major key to success is the excitement generated by the contest. Even the multitudes who don’t win are likely to build a strong link with the business, feeling they’re part of a community. Researchers at University of Colorado had amateurs design skins for MP3 players or mobile phones. When the task was presented from the first as competition against professional designers rather than as only an invitation to customize one’s own product, the amateurs were much more likely to feel pride in their participation.
This new consumer, called “PROSUMER” - a blend of producer and consumer. who is described as a type of consumer who would become involved in the design and manufacture of products, so they could be made to individual specification.
Apple has embraced this idea perfectly when they introduced the apps. Derrick de Kerckhove has called this mass customisation, in which everybody is in effect, a member of a niche market, something Internet e-commerce is encouraging through eliminating the middleman between maker and buyer.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
The bureau defines poverty as any family of four living on less than $21,954 a year.
Currency intervention's mixed record of success.
By Russell Hotten Business reporter, BBC News
A currency trader in London shouts orders as the pound continues to fall after the UK's intervention in currency markets in 1992
The law of unintended consequences is rarely as true as when applied to currency interventions.
Japan's surprise move to weaken the value of the yen was a bold move, but the government is well aware that such actions have a mixed record of success.
Earlier this year, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) began large-scale buying of euros.
The aim was to halt the inexorable rise of the Swiss franc and to maintain the competitiveness of the economy.
But the franc continued to appreciate, and in July the currency was at an all-time high against the euro.
Yet, despite plenty of scepticism among analysts as to whether intervention works, policymakers see it as an essential part of their armoury.
In the past couple of years Mexico, Poland, Indonesia, and Russia are among countries that have acted to protect their currencies.
Last year Russia is thought to have spent $210bn to maintain the rouble at a rate of 41 roubles against a basket of dollars and euros. The rouble is now at 34.86 versus the basket.
The Swiss and Russian examples suggest their actions backfired. Yet, who knows how strong or weak the franc and rouble would be if there had been no intervention.
One definite example of a failure of intervention was in 1992, when the UK attempted to shadow the German Deutschmark and stay in the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
In just one day, the UK spent billions of pounds defending sterling's value. But the foreign exchange markets knew it was pointless, and kept selling.
Britain suffered a humiliating defeat, and a little-known currency trader called George Soros made a lot of money.
Of course, central banks intervene for different reasons. Britain wanted to defend sterling, whereas Switzerland wanted to weaken the franc.
And influencing the supply and demand of currencies is only one reason central banks intervene.
It can also send important signals about future monetary policy and policymakers' assessment of whether a currency is divorced from economic fundamentals.
But Japan's previous attempts at intervention, six years ago, failed to stop the yen's appreciation despite a 15-month spree of buying dollars.
Tohru Sasaki, currency strategist at JP Morgan, said in a research note last month: "There is no historical case in which [yen] selling intervention succeeded in immediately stopping the pre-existing long term uptrend in the Japanese yen."
This latest action at least had the desired result on day one - weakening the yen against the dollar by about 3%.
Economist Nouriel Roubini argues that most major countries want a weak currency, not just Japan.
But this is a long-term game, designed to push up the prices of imported goods and lift Japan from the deflationary spiral that has damaged the economy for years.
But it does not appear that the US Federal Reserve or European Central Bank are involved, Mr Roubini said. What's more: "We are in a world where everyone wants a weak currency."
Japan's move pushed the dollar higher, something Washington wants to resist as it makes US exports more expensive.
Following Japan's move, the dollar also rose against the currencies of Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and, crucially, the Chinese yuan.
Analysts are now asking if central banks in these Asian countries will weaken their own currencies to counter Japan's impact on their economies.
It is a reminder that central bank interventions do not happen in isolation. When a currency is sold, another must be bought.